Scottish independence is pricklier than the nation’s flower. Given the choice, most theatre directors wouldn’t touch the issue with a long bargepole and a stout pair of gloves. On paper then, Julian Wickham would appear to be highly unqualified for such a delicate role; the Englishman’s time in Scotland can be measured in months, and by his own admission, he’s not a political heavyweight.
Independence works however, both as a play and a thought-provoker, ahead of the country’s historic vote. There can only be two possible outcomes on September 18th and the Edinburgh Stage School director considers both in a play that’s neatly split into two parts. The first half – “Oxford or Orkney” – inhabits a Scotland that said “No”. Ideologies clash and generational gaps collide as Rachel’s parents duel with her freedom fighter boyfriend. There are some gripping performances to savour, with Martyn McCormack, who plays oil baron Thomas, particularly compelling once he finds his stride. The exposition is a little heavy in places – we’re constantly reminded of Rachel’s impending 18th – but there’s no faulting the delivery.
Part two – the grammatically ambiguous “Londons Loves Labours Lost” – belongs to the camp and ebullient Hamish, played by Euan McIntyre. His every flourish has the audience rapt, to the point where his theatrics threaten to consume the play. Peter and Liina – played by Steven Hogg and the vivacious Viktorija Jevic – are not to be outdone however and acquit themselves well. It ends with a whimper instead of a bang, but in every other respect, Independence earns a resounding Yes.